About our conductor
Our Conductor and Musical Director, Geoffrey Bushell, has directed St Giles Orchestra since 1983. His first interests in classical music developed while a piano pupil of David Willison at Whitgift School. He has since studied conducting with Adrian Leaper, Denise Ham and the late George Hurst at Canford - now Sherbourne Summer School of Music, and is well known in Oxfordshire as a player of French horn and double bass, and as composer of mainly romantic style pieces ranging from small ensembles to large-scale symphonic works. Many of his pieces have been premiered by St Giles Orchestra. As well as significantly increasing the technical and musical standard of the Orchestra, Geoffrey is renowned for introducing players and audience to lesser-known and unjustly neglected repertoire. Rehearsals are enjoyable but focussed, with occasional mini-sectionals for a small part of the orchestra, to help progress technical issues without holding up the rest of the orchestra.
In November 2009, Geoffrey celebrated conducting his 100th concert of St Giles Orchestra with a programme of his own choosing.
In 2012, Geoffrey took the orchestra forward with a recording for a submission of a song by Johnny Martin to Pinewood Studios for the James Bond film Skyfall. Later the same year, Geoffrey conducted St Giles Orchestra in a recording in Christ Church Cathedral of Walton's Crown Imperial March which was broadcast on the BBC One Show as part of the Royal Jubilee celebrations.
In 2013, and again in 2015, Geoffrey prepared the orchestra and was an adjudicator in the Abingdon Music Festival's Maestro conducting competition, and later coached the winning conductors for their prizes - conducting a piece in a concert or rehearsal.
In 2013 Geoffrey celebrated 30 years as conductor of St Giles Orchestra, and in 2014 was presented with an antique baton on the 30th anniversary of his first concert.
Also in 2013, Geoffrey was appointed tutor for Didcot-based Phoenix Flutes. He helps prepare Phoenix Flutes for its occasional public appearances.
Geoffrey is also internationally known for his website celebrating the epic Third Symphony of Reinhold Gliere.
A message from Geoffrey
It has been a pleasure to conduct St Giles Orchestra for the last thirty years. In that time, the orchestra has made great strides in its technical ability, as confirmed by players who return after not hearing us for a while, and by the generous comments of our audience. As well as the obvious benefits, our greater technical mastery has enabled us to tackle increasingly difficult repertoire, thus ensuring that we have the capability to play the music our players and audiences appreciate.
Over the last thirty years, our audiences have grown significantly. I am gratified that when we feature lesser known repertoire, which has become somewhat of a hallmark of St Giles Orchestra, audiences nearly always enjoy it because they say they trust us to play music which always contains a good tune.
It is a great tribute to the orchestra that we can attract guest musicians who once played in professional orchestras - currently this list includes the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the European Union Baroque Orchestra.
As musical director, I try to lead the development of the orchestra according to a set of principles, ably assisted by our management committee:
- Select popular repertoire based on audience and player preferences
- Introduce audiences and players to rare but enjoyable repertoire
- Encourage the growth of audiences by offering a complete and enjoyable experience
- Develop players through selection of challenging but rewarding repertoire and new musical projects
- Involve players in the running of the orchestra
- Through partnerships, make music with and for other organisations
- Maintain a friendly and sociable organisation.
Looking to the future, we draft programmes two or three years ahead, and are looking forward to working with highly gifted soloists, many of whom come from major professional orchestras such as the BBC Concert Orchestra, CBSO and Philharmonia, and who travel to play or sing with SGO - recent examples include USA and Austria. As well as inviting back soloists who have performed with us before, we also provide career-launching opportunities for students and aspiring professionals to play concertos.
When I look back at the progress that we have made over the last thirty years, it gives me great satisfaction to have been a part of it. I am also greatly looking forward to our future concerts. Whether you are a player, a member of the audience, a prospective soloist or partner, I hope you will find the essence of SGO on this website, and that it will encourage you to share our musical journey.
Conductor and Musical Director